Murder charge laid

A 34-year-old Prince George man has been charged with murder in a death over the long weekend.

Christopher Clarke George has been charged with second-degree murder, assault with a weapon and uttering threats.

Charges stem from an incident early Saturday when police were called to a report of a disturbance near the corner of Oak Street and Porter Avenue.

There, police discovered two people suffering from serious injuries from an apparent assault.

A 30-year-old man and 20-year-old female were both transported to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Prince was arrested near the scene.

The male victim later died from his injuries, The female victim has since been released from hospital.

"All indications are that all the people involved were known to each other and this was a targeted attack as a result of a disagreement," police said in a statement.

The Prince George RCMP Serious Crime Section is leading the investigation.


Liberals retain minority

The final count for the provincial election is in – and nothing has changed.

Elections BC reports that after absentee ballots were counted and recounts conducted, the standings remain the same: BC Liberals 43 seats, BC NDP 41 seats, and the BC Greens three seats.

Premier Christy Clark issued the following statement:

"I want to congratulate all candidates, from all parties, who put their names forward to run. It’s not easy, and they deserve our gratitude for working to make our province even better.

“With 43 BC Liberal candidates elected as MLAs, and a plurality in the legislature, we have a responsibility to move forward and form a government."

There will be no automatic judicial recounts. The district electoral officer must apply for a judicial recount if the difference between the top two candidates is less than 1/500 of the total ballots considered, or if there is a tie. No electoral districts meet this criteria.

Clark continued: “The final result reinforces that British Columbians want us to work together, across party lines, to get things done for them.

“Our priority is to protect our strong economy and to manage BC’s finances responsibly, while listening closely to British Columbians on how we address important social and environmental priorities and how we can make BC politics more responsive, transparent, and accountable.

“The work is just beginning. My team and I look forward to delivering positive results for British Columbians.”

But NDP Leader John Horgan said the results of the election show voters want change and he believes he can work with Green Leader Andrew Weaver to govern.

"British Columbians have voted overwhelmingly to replace Christy Clark's Liberals with a new government that works better for families," he said.

Michael Prince, a social policy expert at the University of Victoria, said Clark is also gambling that British Columbians are not in the mood to head back to the polls and the longer she can stay in power, the better are her chances of winning another election.

"I think she'll be hoping there'll be no appetite for an instant election," he said. "She can try to bring in a throne speech and a budget with a lot of green tinges."

The popular vote tightened as Elections BC finished counting almost 180,000 absentee ballots to finalize the results. The Liberals received just 1,566 more votes across the province than the NDP from almost 1.8 million ballots.

Weaver has said the major demands his party will be seeking in a minority government include being granted party status in the legislature. The Greens fell one seat short of official status after the election.

The Greens also want reforms to the electoral system to allow for proportional representation and changes to party fundraising rules that allow unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals.

with files from The Canadian Press

Ex-cop faces more charges

More criminal charges have been laid against a former Vancouver police detective constable.

British Columbia's prosecution service says James Fisher faces two additional counts of sexual assault and a charge of breach of trust in relation to a witness in a criminal investigation.

Fisher was on active duty when he was charged in December with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and obstruction of justice.

He was working for the department's counter exploitation team, which investigates prostitution and criminal exploitation.

The service says in a statement that the new charges were approved by a senior Crown counsel from a different area of the province where Fisher worked.

The statement says Fisher is still bound by his original bail conditions of release.

His next court appearance has been set for May 30 in Surrey provincial court.


Protecting the seafloor

The federal government is taking the first step in protecting an area that contains rare, chimney-like hydrothermal vents off British Columbia's coast.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans announced Wednesday the Marine Protected Area would cover an area twice the size of New Brunswick, or about 140,000 square kilometres, west of Vancouver Island to the edge of Canadian waters, 200 nautical miles off the coast.

The vents, which were only discovered in 1982, release minerals from the Earth's crust and are home to a variety of unique sea life and plants that have adapted to the harsh conditions created by the warm or saline water.

The ministry says it intends to create the Marine Protected Area by 2020, but there are many hurdles to overcome first.

It says final boundaries and activity restrictions still need to be worked out and there will be consultations with local, provincial and indigenous partners.

The area would also protect a seamount, or an underwater mountain, that rises more than 1,000 metres from the sea floor.

Razor-thin lead in vote

The New Democrats are widening a lead in Vancouver Island's crucial Courtenay-Comox riding, where the results could determine the next British Columbia government.

The latest Elections BC absentee ballot count has NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard ahead of Liberal candidate Jim Benninger by 148 votes.

The race between Leonard and Benninger has swung back and forth, since election night on May 9 when Leonard held a 13-vote lead.

The gap in the popular vote is also closing between the two major parties, showing the Liberals with 40.36 per cent support compared with the New Democrat's 40.28 per cent.

At stake is a one-seat Liberal majority if Benninger wins, but if Leonard wins, there could be a Liberal or NDP minority government with the support of three Green members in the 87-seat legislature.

A judicial recount remains a possibility depending on the final outcome or the ability of either the Liberals or NDP to convince a judge to order a recount.

The standings on election night were: 43 Liberals, 41 New Democrats and three Greens. A majority government would be 44 seats.

Liberal and New Democrat negotiating groups have met separately with a Green team since the election in an effort to reach a political co-operation agreement that would either support the Liberals to govern or allow the NDP to form a government.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver has said the Greens want party status even though they don't have the required four seats. The Greens also want to reform the current first-past-the-post electoral system and want changes to B.C.'s campaign finance system that currently allows large donations from corporations, unions and individuals.

Flood relief from Red Cross

The Red Cross is coming to the aid of flood victims across the province.

Thanks to donations from people across the country, the Red Cross says it is making $600 available to registered households whose primary residence was damaged by flooding.

The funds are part of the organization's early recovery efforts to reach those most in need. Further support will be made available to affected individuals and families on a case-by-case basis.

"An evacuation has an immediate financial impact on families. Parents may need to take time off work to sandbag or repair their homes, and costs rise quickly for simple needs like replacing food in their fridge, transportation or purchasing a child's favourite toy that was lost," said Red Cross spokesperson Kimberley Nemrava.

"Thanks to the generous donations from Canadians, partners and businesses, the Red Cross has the opportunity to provide direct financial assistance to families to help ease the burden."

To be considered eligible for financial assistance, households that were evacuated and whose homes were damaged by flood waters can register for Red Cross assistance online, or by phone at 1-800-863-6582.

Families whose homes were impacted by slope movement or slides due to the rain event are also eligible.

Tree smashes Hydro truck

A BC Hydro technician is unhurt, but his truck was crushed by a falling tree while he tried to restore power in a Vancouver neighbourhood as a windstorm tore across southern British Columbia late Tuesday.

Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott says the worker was in the vehicle when the tree came down, but the truck's boom absorbed most of the impact and the worker was able to escape the shattered cab.

The incident happened at the height of the storm, which BC Hydro says knocked out power to 210,000 customers on the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, parts of Vancouver Island and the Southern Interior.

Scott says power was restored early Wednesday for about 184,000 customers, but another 30,000 remain without electricity, including in some of the hardest hit areas like 100 Mile House, Clearwater, Salmon Arm and Enderby.

She says crews are working as fast as possible to reach and repair many of the Interior locations, but there is no estimate when power will be restored.

Windstorm cuts power

Last night's wind storm caused numerous outages across the Southern Interior, Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Central Interior.

According to BC Hydro's power outage list just after 7:30 a.m., a total of 16,188 customers were without power in the Thompson/Shuswap region and 2,472 customers were suffering an outage in the Okanagan/Kootenay region.

In Salmon Arm, hundreds of people remain without power.

According to a statement on the utility's website: "BC Hydro crews and contractors have made steady progress through the night and continue to work to restore remaining affected customers. Please continue to check back for the latest info. Thank you for your patience."

In all, according to a BC Hydro statement, about 210,000 in affected areas were left without power. More than 184,000 customers have been reconnected.

"There are currently less than 30,000 customers without power."

Election outcome still murky

The final count in British Columbia's tight and inconclusive election will be known on Wednesday, but the possibility of a judicial recount means the actual outcome might not be known for weeks.

The race between the Liberals and New Democrats in one key Vancouver Island riding swung back and forth on Tuesday.

The latest ballot count in the hotly contested Courtenay-Comox riding showed a 101-vote lead for New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard over Liberal Jim Benninger. Earlier, Benninger was ahead by three votes after starting the day 13 behind.

At stake is a one-seat Liberal majority if Benninger wins.

But if Leonard wins, there could be a Liberal or NDP minority government with the support of the Green party in the 87-seat legislature.

After the May 9 election, the Liberals had 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens had three seats.

On election night, Leonard was ahead by nine votes in Courtenay-Comox.

"Where they stand now, it's a possibility there will be a judicial recount," said Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson.

Elections BC did a recount in Courtenay-Comox before it began counting absentee ballots. Almost 180,000 absentee votes are being tallied provincewide as part of the agency's final count, which must be completed on Wednesday.

An application for a judicial recount must be filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia within six days of the final result being declared.

"Within 72 hours after an application has been filed, the courts, if the application is approved, must set the date and time and the place for the judicial recount to occur and that must be set no later than eight days after that time," said Watson.

The results of the judicial recount are subject to an appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal, he said. An appeal must be filed within two days of the judicial recount and the result of the appeal must be determined within 10 days.

The final vote counting was still underway in several B.C. ridings. Liberal candidate Jas Johal was declared the winner in Richmond-Queensborough by a margin of 134 votes.

As the counting continued, several groups opposed to the Site C hydroelectric dam and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion called for a pact between the New Democrats and Greens, if the final results produce a minority government.

A wide range of social, environmental and First Nations groups say the election result represents a chance for the two political movements to work together as a unified force.

"We have a unique and historic moment in the history of B.C. to change the course of history," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Chiefs.

About 50 people were at the legislature to present an online petition signed by 25,000 people since the election.

Carole James, a former NDP leader, and Sonia Furstenau, a newly elected member of the legislature for the Greens, accepted the petition asking the two parties to co-operate.

Sea lions 'are not pets'

Jocelyne Dramisino says she made her little cousin watch a hair-raising online video before taking her to a Vancouver-area wharf on Tuesday where days earlier a sea lion yanked a young girl off the dock and into the water.

"I wanted ... to make sure that she was a little bit smarter than other people have been in the past so that that would not happen to her," Dramisino said during a visit to Steveston Harbour in Richmond.

The video shows a young girl leaning over the edge of a dock, giggling at an adult male California sea lion swimming less than a metre away. The girl sits down on the guard rail before the animal grabs her dress and pulls her backwards into the water. A man jumps in and lifts her to safety.

A spokeswoman for the Vancouver Aquarium said in an email that the girl's family contacted the facility and is getting the appropriate medical treatment after she received a superficial injury.

Dramisino said she would still bring visiting friends and family to the harbour, but it's important to keep a distance from wild animals.

"They are not our cats and dogs that we have at home," said Dramisino, who lives in North Vancouver. "Although they do seem friendly and they look cute, they are wild animals, and they are more vicious than you probably would tend to think."

The sea lion appears to have been drawn to the dock on Saturday by adults who were reportedly throwing bread crumbs into the water.

In an interview with the CBC, the father of the girl pulled into the water denied that anyone in the family was feeding the animal. Identified only by the family's surname, he said his daughter was too close to the sea lion and that she learned her lesson the hard way.

Since the incident, the Steveston Harbour Authority has plastered the dock with warning signs telling people not to feed the wildlife and to be careful around the water's edge.

A Fisheries and Oceans Canada note warns that people found disturbing a marine mammal can faces fines of up to $100,000.

Drive-by shooting

RCMP in Surrey responded to a drive-by shooting overnight.

Police responded to a report of gunshots near a townhouse complex in the area of 75th Avenue and 140th Street. A vehicle was struck, however there were no injuries.

It's not yet known if the shooting was targeted, says Sgt. Dale Jackson.

The Surrey RCMP General Investigation Unit is investigating and has released the scene. 

Anyone with information is asked contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Floods below, snow above

First it was flooding, then it was wind... now, it's snow.

Mother Nature dealt a blow to the Okanagan Tuesday night, bringing all kinds of mayhem.

While valley residents were fighting high water pushed by strong winds, snow was falling at higher elevations.

Castanet readers report wet snow and near whiteout conditions on the Okanagan Connector overnight.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement just after 4:30 a.m. for the Merritt to Kelowna highway.

It reads: "Freezing levels over the B.C. Interior have dropped significantly in the wake of a cold front. Some highway passes can expect near or below freezing temperatures this morning. Precipitation may fall in the form of flurries over these passes this morning, with a few centimetres of snow possible. Motorists should be cautious of locally slippery conditions and reduced visibility."

That is confirmed by photos sent overnight from the area.

Weather in the mountains can change suddenly, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.

Check latest highway conditions at www.drivebc.ca.

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